QUEENS — Customers shopping at a Richmond Hill Key Food have donated more than $1,500 in less than two weeks so that the local library can buy new books amid a budget crunch.
The Richmond Hill library's book budget was reduced by more than 70 percent, to $7,000 this fiscal year from $25,000 in 2013, according to branch manager Rebecca Alibatya.
The grocery store’s owner, Mark D'Urso, offered to ask his customers to donate money for new books when they check out throughout the month of April.
Before he came up with the idea, D'Urso had donated more than $6,500 from his own pocket to buy library books for children and young adults.
Patrons shopping at the Lefferts Boulevard store, just off of Jamaica Avenue, have the opportunity to make a donation of $1, $3 or $5.
As of Friday morning, the customers had donated $1,563.
According to D’Urso, 1,227 customers made $1 donations, 52 people gave $3 and 36 patrons contributed $5.
“We’ve never seen anything like that,” D’Urso said. Usually, when the store asks customers for donations for various charity causes, the supermarket collects between $200 and $300.
“It’s incredible,” said Alibatya, who added that she is very touched by the generosity of local shoppers.
D'Urso said the store walls have been covered with cards bearing the names of donors, which the Key Food displays as a sign of appreciation.
Earlier this week, the library also received news that it has been awarded $100,000 to renovate its interior through the City Council's participatory budgeting process, Alibatya said.
The number of patrons at the library, which serves Richmond Hill and Kew Gardens, continues to grow with 100,000 patrons served since July 2013, about 5 percent more than during the same time last year, Alibatya said. The library, she said, serves more than 100 children a day.
Shoppers can make donations to the library at the Key Food check-out for three more weeks, D'Urso said.